Slaven doctoral colloquium 2018

Workshop report by Julia Fernando, doctoral student at Aston Business School:

This year, I had the pleasure of attending the seventh annual Tony Slaven Doctoral workshop held by the Association of Business Historians (ABH) conference. The workshop is designed to enable doctoral students to share their research with academics and other students from the field of business history and receive feedback.

I submitted my proposal to the workshop with some hesitation – my academic and professional background is firmly rooted in Work and Organisational Psychology, with a particular focus on the experiences of women in the world of work. My current research, however, is inter-disciplinary, drawing on Area Studies, Work Psychology and Business History to explore the contemporary and historical factors influencing the patterns of female entrepreneurship in Uganda.

Prior to my doctoral studies, I had come across historical methods in my wider reading of the social sciences but had never perceived a compatibility between the two disciplines. My lack of knowledge about history and historical methods threatened to dissuade me from applying to the workshop. However, the workshop’s reputation of having an informal and supportive atmosphere fought back the pangs of imposter syndrome and I successfully submitted a proposal.

The workshop preceded the annual ABH conference 2018, at the Open University, Milton Keynes. Upon arrival, I was invited to join a small selection of doctoral students and academics, who were congregating around the refreshments in the upstairs foyer of the Michael Young Building. My nerves immediately eased as we were warmly welcomed by Mitchell Larson and given an overview of the day.

The workshop comprised of presentations by doctoral students and skills sessions led by experienced academics. The day kicked off with two excellent student presentations on the history of banking and finance in the UK. Carolyn Keber discussed her research on UK investment trusts before WW1 and Oluwatoyin Olojido shared insights from her study on the role of aristocracy in British new share issues in 1891-1914.

A roundtable on doctoral examinations followed the morning’s presentations. I learnt about the common challenges facing final year students and the ways to best prepare for your final year defence from the perspective of experienced examiners in the room. As a first-year student, I listened in with great interest but a degree of psychological detachment – stressors for next year, I reminded myself…

After lunch, Professor Peter Miskell shared fascinating insights in his interactive session on the publication patterns of business historians. Learning that the Business History of Africa remains partial and less frequented, only further sparked my motivation for adopting historical methods in my study of female entrepreneurship in Uganda.

Beatriz Rodriguez and I presented our research on the Business History of developing economies. Beatriz shared her proposed research design investigating the financing varieties of capitalism in Colombia after 1950 and I gave an overview of my research and motivations to contribute a Business History of women entrepreneurs in Uganda. A lively discussion followed both of our presentations, which spilled over into side conversations and discussions sometime after the workshop closed.

I walked into the Tony Slaven Workshop unclear about how historical methods could precisely complement the research question I am pursuing. I walked out with a sense of direction, pages of recommended reading and contact details of the academics who have already offered me extensive, informal support. I have felt hugely supported by the Tony Slaven Workshop organisers, attendees and the ABH community as a whole and would thoroughly recommend the workshop to any doctoral students incorporating an element of business history in their research.

The Slaven doctoral colloquium will run again next year, please go to the ABH website for updates: http://www.abh-net.org/ 

 

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Conf: Transmission of Financial Knowledge in Historical Perspective

The Transmission of Financial Knowledge in Historical Perspective, 1840-1940

March 8-9, 2019

German Historical Institute, Washington, DC

Conveners: Nicholas Osborne (Ohio University) and Atiba Pertilla (GHI Washington)

Submission Deadline: August 1, 2018

(Call for Papers Stable URL: https://www.ghi-dc.org/events-conferences/event-history/2019/conferences/financial-knowledge.html?L=0)

Nicholas Osborne, PhD

Lecturer, Honors Tutorial College

Ohio University

Columbia University, GSAS ’14

Department of History

Call for papers. ‘Business and the law: historical perspectives on legal change.’ Deadline extended to 31 October.

Special Issue of Management and Organizational History: Business and the Law. Historical Perspectives on Legal Change

Firms act in tightly regulated legal environments. Yet as new products, production processes, and economic practices emerged that environment has been constantly questioned, undermined, and rebuilt. At the same time, legal innovations challenged established economic practices like the ban on child labor or new cartel laws. Assuming that innovations were always in line with the legal system or that firms simply complied with new laws is misleading. Usually, the more accurate picture was that of a highly contingent process of negotiation and rule breaking. In the long term, firms needed to succeed in positioning their products and services as legitimate and inside the law. To see this process as a one way street of political primacy would be historically incorrect and a bad assumption to solve current problems of regulation. Given the fundamental importance of the alignment, legal change figures as a central explanatory problem for understanding the course of economic development.
The aim of the SI is to understand legal change as a contingent change in routines that affected the way businesses and courts interpreted the “rules of the game”. Such a change could manifest itself in written law or lead to a fundamentally different way of interpreting it. In both cases the focus of the papers should be on economic and legal practices, i.e. on the question what the law meant in its historical context and how it actually affected economic actions. We are looking for theoretical work as well as empirical case studies that help to shed light on the historical transformations of legal institutions at the intersection of businesses and the law. Specifically, we are looking for papers that address at least one of the following research questions.

1. The Relation of Firm Behavior and the Law: Conceptual Clarifications and Historical Perspectives
2. Direct Intervention: The Practice of Political Entrepreneurship and Its Effects
3. Subtle Evasion: The Stubbornness of Business Routines in the Face of Legal Change
4. Legal Provocations: Schumpeterian “Rule Breaking” and Business Scandals

Each submission will initially be reviewed by the guest editors to determine its suitability for the special issue. Before final acceptance papers will also be double-blind reviewed. Publication of the special issue is planned for the year 2019.
For further information, please contact sebastian.teupe@uni-bayreuth.de
The deadline for submissions is 31 October 2018.

Editorial information

Guest Editor: Sebastian Teupe, University of Bayreuth, Germany (Sebastian.teupe@uni-bayreuth.de)
Guest Editor: Louis Pahlow, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/Main, Germany (Pahlow@jur.uni-frankfurt.de)

TOC: BH 60(6)

The  new issue of Business History is out:

The British corporate network, 1904–1976: Revisiting the finance–industry relationship
John F. Wilson, Emily Buchnea & Anna Tilba
Pages: 779-806 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1333106

Retailing under resale price maintenance: Economies of scale and scope, and firm strategic response, in the inter-war British retail pharmacy sector
Peter Scott & James T. Walker
Pages: 807-832 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1340455

Development built on crony capitalism? The case of Dangote Cement
Akinyinka Akinyoade & Chibuike Uche
Pages: 833-858 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1341492

A moving target: The geographic evolution of Silicon Valley, 1953–1990
Stephen B. Adams, Dustin Chambers & Michael Schultz
Pages: 859-883 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1346612

‘In the best position to reap mutually beneficial results’: Sole-agency agreements and the distribution of consumer durables in inter-war Britain
Nicholas D. Wong & Andrew Popp
Pages: 884-907 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1360287

Deadlock in corporate governance: Finding a common strategy for private telephone companies, 1978–1998
Pasi Nevalainen
Pages: 908-929 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1366448

Book Reviews

Innovation and technological diffusion: An economic history of early steam engines
Alessandro Nuvolari
Pages: 930-931 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1369635

 

Profits and Sustainability. A History of Green Entrepreneurship
Ann-Kristin Bergquist
Pages: 931-933 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1371433

 

Natural resources and economic growth. Learning from history
Valeria Giacomin
Pages: 933-935 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1376391

 

From main street to mall: The rise and fall of the American department store
Franck Cochoy
Pages: 935-939 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1376396

 

Les banques françaises et la Grande Guerre
Hubert Bonin
Pages: 939-940 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2016.1269525

Erratum

Correction to: The expansion of branding in international marketing: The case of olive oil, 1870s–1930s
Pages: x-x | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1361621

Peter Miskell: Content & Practice of Business History

Last weekend at the Association of Business Historians’ Conference, Peter Miskell (Henley Business School) gave a really insightful talk about the current state of business history. He kindly agreed to share the slides and write up a short summary for the Organizational History Network.

Who are business historians, and what is it that they do? Or more bluntly, what is business history? These are questions that have troubled professional business historians for at least a couple of decades, and to which no clear consensus has yet emerged. In one sense, this doesn’t seem to matter greatly. Business history conferences continue to be relatively well attended, attracting scholars from a range of related disciplines; business history journals are publishing an increasing quantity of articles; and business history related sub-groups are evident within wider scholarly communities such as the Academy of Management, the American Historical Association, and the European Group on Organisation Studies. On this evidence business history is thriving. Yet if pressed to define the intellectual core of the discipline – the central questions it addresses and the methods it uses to tackle them – it is difficult to identify a clear answer on which all can agree. If business historians appear to lack an agreed sense of intellectual mission, they also lack a common institutional home. Those of us who may have the confidence to self-identify as business historians at social gatherings are not, as a rule, employed in departments of business history. Within our workplaces we are often lone scholars, and in many cases our identity as business historians co-exists with (or is subordinate to) another disciplinary identity. In this sense business history is not an academic disciplines on a par with, say, economics or psychology or communication studies. It is a sub-discipline, but it is not entirely clear (even among its practitioners) what it is a sub-discipline of.

Rather than attempting to identify the core intellectual identity of business history, or to outline a grand vision of how the (sub-)discipline should develop in the coming years, perhaps it would be more useful to pause and take stock of what the business community actually looks like. Where is it that business historians actually work? Who pays their (our) salaries? What are the institutional ‘rules of the game’ within which they (we) work?

In attempting to address these questions I decided to set myself the simple task of finding out which academic departments business historians are affiliated to. Academic departments in universities, I would argue, constitute the key institutional structures within which most intellectual disciplines function. Different academic disciplines have their own institutional norms and conventions, which are typically learned and reinforced within academic departments through mechanisms such as recruitment practices, mentoring, tenure and promotion systems. In most cases the health (and viability) of these departments is measured by their ability to attract students. (There are some countries where departments are also explicitly measured on the quality of their research outputs, but these provide indications of reputation or prestige rather than of financial viability). Departments which fail to attract a sufficient volume of students are at risk of closure or merger, as exemplified by the fate of many departments of economic history in the UK. This means that business historians (like most academics) ultimately make a living through their teaching rather than their research. And since there are very few students applying to study business history degrees (and thus no departments of business history), this in turn means one of two things for business historians: either they need to teach business history in such a way as to make it relevant and interesting to students whose primary focus is elsewhere; or they need to teach subject matter that would not normally be regarded as business history at all (which might be marketing, entrepreneurship, strategy, or perhaps 19th century literature, or 20th century European history). The types of academic departments within which business historians find themselves may be more a matter of necessity than of choice. Mapping out the institutional contexts within which business historians work is an important step in understanding the nature of the discipline, and the challenges (and opportunities) with which it is presented.

The way I have chosen to do this is by collecting data on every article published in the three leading business history journals during the five year period from 2013-2017. In each case the first-named author has been identified, along with their home institution, their academic department, as well as information about the article itself (period, sector and geographical focus of the study). Not all of the authors identified this way would identify themselves primarily as business historians (though much the same could be said of many people who attend business history conferences). By looking at those individuals who have taken the trouble to submit their research to the main business history journals, and whose work has been accepted after a process of peer review, we at least have access to a community of scholars who have shown a willingness to engage in ideas and debates that are of interest to business historians.

I do not pretend that the methodology employed here constitutes a comprehensive census of business history around the world. The exclusive focus on English language journals is one obvious limitation, the focus on journal articles rather than books is another. But the trends which emerge are, I think, important ones. I hope the slides that accompany this post, at least provide some empirical evidence in relation to claims and assertions that are often made about business history, and the institutional contexts within which it is conducted. I plan to work this up into a paper for publication (perhaps in one of the three journals referred to here), but in the meantime would be very happy to receive any thoughts or comments from those who are interested.

Peter Miskell, Henley Business School, UK

 

2018 Hagley Prize winner

Hagley Museum and Library and the Business History Conference are pleased to announce the 2018 winner of the Hagley Prize:  Matatu:  A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi (The University of Chicago Press, 2017) by Kenda Mutongi of Williams College.   Hagley Museum and Library and the Business History Conference jointly offer the Hagley Prize awarded to the best book in Business History (broadly defined) and consists of a medallion and $2,500.  The prize was awarded at the Business History Conference annual meeting held in Baltimore, Maryland, April 7th, 2018.

The prize committee encourages the submission of books from all methodological perspectives.  It is particularly interested in innovation studies that have the potential to expand the boundaries of the discipline.   Scholars, publishers, and other interested parties may submit nominations.  Eligible books can have either an American or an international focus.   They must be written in English and be published during the two years (2017 or 2018 copyright) prior to the award.

Four copies of a book must accompany a nomination and be submitted to the prize coordinator, Carol Ressler Lockman, Hagley Museum and Library, PO Box 3630, 298 Buck Road, Wilmington DE  19807-0630,  The deadline for nominations is November 30, 2018.   The 2019 Hagley Prize will be presented at the annual meeting of the Business History Conference in Cartagena, Colombia, March 16th, 2019.